Rick Rios saw potential throughout his first season as Westland High School football coach.
Now, he's hoping to build on his team's development during his first full offseason with the program.
The Cougars finished 1-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Central Division under Rios, who was hired in February.
"The one that we learned with this group is they were going to buy in and work hard," he said. "I heard a lot of things about maybe them not playing four quarters and competing against teams in the OCC when unfortunately you're going to line up against someone a little bigger, a little faster (and) a little stronger and things are going to be against you. You then find out what kind of character you have.
"You find out if your kids are going to compete and play hard and we felt we had a group that played hard."
Rios' first win came against Franklin Heights, 38-7 on Sept. 14. Westland was competitive to begin the season, as it lost to Licking Heights 34-32 on Aug. 24 and Marion-Franklin 46-44 on Aug. 31.
"Those first couple of games that we lost by two, those were heartbreaking," Rios said. "Going into Week 3 or Week 4, we thought we should have been 3-0 or 4-0. It was a little disappointing."
The Cougars were led by senior quarterback DeShawn Evans, who had a strong season after battling back from an injury last year. Evans, who was lost in Week 4 last season after suffering a right-ankle injury, completed 160 of 307 passes for 1,851 yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
"We were a little disappointed, but we worked hard," he said. "We worked on being a family and worked on all the things that go into building a good program. ... It was great to come back for my senior year, playing with my family and (having) a good year."
Evans was named first team all-league and second-team all-district in Division I.
"DeShawn is a good kid," Rios said. "I wish we would have more than one year with him. It was good to see how coachable he was. He took to coaching really well. We tried to tweak a couple things and I thought he received things pretty well. He did a good job for us."
Evans is looking forward to watching the program's progress under Rios.
"He's doing a good job," Evans said. "Our senior class wanted to help build something that will last long and I think he did a good job of helping us with that."
Senior Anthony Widen (WR/TE/LB) had 44 receptions for 571 yards and seven touchdowns and was named second-team all-league and special mention all-district.
Junior Aboubakare Dabo (OL/DL) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Junior Robert Clark (WR/TE/LB) had 59 receptions for 581 yards and four touchdowns and was special mention all-district and honorable mention all-league.
Junior Peterson Iresne rushed for 626 yards and six touchdowns on 128 carries and was special mention all-league.
Senior Isaiah Dukes (WR/LB) had 21 catches for 309 yards and four touchdowns, and junior Kyle Bowles (WR/DB) had 15 receptions for 220 yards and one touchdown.
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Shaun Fannin (DB), Nick Spires (LB) and Buddy Workman (QB/DB) and sophomores Peyton Hayes (OL) and Hayden Hughes (OL).
In the OCC-Central, Westland lost to Central Crossing 31-20 on Oct. 12 to fall to 0-10 in the series.
League champion Hilliard Davidson and runner-up Dublin Coffman advanced to the Division I playoffs.
"I'm looking forward to having a full offseason with these kids in the weight room," Rios said. "We felt kind of rushed last year coming in and trying to piece things together. I'm definitely looking forward to having a full year."